Another example of the wonders of the internet: the Metathesis website, whose centerpiece is the Metathesis Database [run by Beth Hume].

What is metathesis? Metathesis is the phenomenon whereby two sounds that appear in a particular order in one form of a word occur in the reverse order in a related form of the word. […] The goal of this research project is two-fold. The first is to provide a more solid empirical basis for the study of metathesis. To achieve this, we are developing a database of reported cases of metathesis. […] (Note that not all reported cases of metathesis are actual cases of metathesis, as noted in some of the language listings.) The second aim of this project is to come to a clearer understanding of the nature of metathesis and, with this knowledge, develop a constrained and predictive theory of metathesis.

What a treasure for linguists! (Hat tip to Paul for the link.)

Update (Sept. 2023). The last snapshot preserved by the Internet Archive is Sept. 4, 2014. Sic tarnsit…


  1. Seems fairly ancient, ne c’est pas? It’s from 2000, and yet barely half the languages cataloged have pages or been updated.

  2. From the description, the first example that came to mind in North American English was the use of “ax” for “ask”, which is common in AAVE.
    The website doesn’t have Irish, so I couldn’t look for a similar example, which is the word for “box” which could be either “bocsa” or “bosca”.
    Am I missing something and these are not true examples of metathesis? And am I missing something else, because the list of examples seemed pretty short?

  3. If Dumbarton means Fort of the British, why isn’t it Dumbraton?

  4. If you have to pronounce Dumbraton 100 times every day, I’d dare say it’ll get shortened to Dumbarton very soon – in twenty centuries or so….

  5. Seems fairly ancient, ne c’est pas? It’s from 2000, and yet barely half the languages cataloged have pages or been updated.
    Hell, I didn’t notice that. Well, consider this an obituary post, then.

  6. Garrigus Carraig says

    I think ax comes from OE acsian, axian, which was a variant of ascian. You can see it in the examples under ascian here. The Metathesis database says of OE, “Medial sk often underwent metathesis to ks in late West Saxon.”

  7. maidhc, Garrigus: Indeed, the metathesis of ask is very old in English, though it’s unclear whether AAVE ax is a survival or a re-creation. However, the cognate words make it clear that ask is the original form.

  8. You may enjoy some contrepèteries in English (contrepets are demanding form of meaningfula nd purposeful spoonerisms)

  9. Dear Governor Brown [Jerry Brown’s father]:

    Can you please change the name of the Dumbarton Bridge?


    Mary Barton

  10. Here’s a fine (authentic) spoonerism: “skerched orth”.

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